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Chapter Fifteen

I spent the rest of Saturday and Sunday at home in my room. Pathetic, I know, but I needed time alone to recuperate. I was so vulnerable outside of the diner with Justin and I hate myself for it. Why is it that when I finally let my guard down my heart gets trampled on?

I’ve kept my phone shut off because I didn’t want to talk to any of the girls, and i most definitely didn’t want to hear from Justin. I know I may be overreacting but I can’t help it.

I know we aren’t together and he has no obligations towards me, but it still hurt seeing him with her. The truth of him still loving her was like a hard slap against the face. I needed time to nurse and heal my wounds.

“Lilly? Are you hungry?” My mom waltz into my room with a plate filled with pancakes, bacon, and sausage. My mouth waters as the delectable scent fills my nose. I knew this was my mom’s heartbreak remedy. Filling my stomach to substitute the emptiness in my heart.

“Thanks,” I say gratefully, munching lightly as she sat beside me on my bed. We sat in an awkward silence for a while and when I finished my bacon she cooked just right, not too crispy or soft, she finally spoke up.

“What happened baby girl? I know before that you staying holed up in your room wouldn’t be a cause for worry, but you’ve been going out so much more lately and hanging with your friends. Being the happy teenager you should be.

But the home phone has been ringing off the hook and your friends are worried, as am I. Justin especially,” I winced when she mentioned his name and she nodded her head in recognition.

“I don’t know what he did, but I know Justin is a good guy who really cares about you.”

“He loves someone else,” I say miserably.

“I’d be one to challenge that statement. He keeps calling the house begging to see you, he’s actually stopped by a few times but I told him you weren’t up for company. That doesn’t sound like a boy smitten by another girl,” She says wisely and I hate her for it because it forces me to think rationally.

“Ugh! This just sucks so much, you know? I finally admit to myself that he means something to me and then he’s kissing his ex. And yeah, maybe she came onto him and that there’s a million ways to justify what I saw. But it just reinforced the same old fears I have. Because he did love her once and he might still feel something for her. I just don’t want to get hurt again,” I say pitifully. I’ve been sounding like a broken record lately but it’s all the truth. I’m terrified to trust Justin and to fall and land with the same resounding impact when my heart turns into smithereens.

My mother smooths back my baby hairs, smiling sadly. Her dark eyes regarded me with empathy, understanding my heart’s turmoil since she’s dealt with it before. The man who vowed to love her forever fell in love with another woman.

“I know your relationship with Bryce devastated you. He was a selfish, immature asshole and despite how hard it was to see you so broken because of him, I admit I was relieved when you told me it was over. Because he was stealing your spark baby. He just took, took, and kept on taking anything and everything from you, consuming your love to propel himself forward and left you empty. That glimmer in your eye was gone because of him. But you know what?” my mother asks, her amber eyes burning bright as she tried to get me to see things from her perspective.

“When Justin starting coming around that spark was back. You were no longer just a shell. You were my daughter again. And I’m not saying you need a boy to be happy, because your strength has always been inside you. He just tapped into what I could never ignite. Despite my efforts with our dinners together, forcing you to see your father hoping he could aid you, and so much else, that boy and his friends rekindled the person you’ve always been. The person who locked herself in the shadows for protection.” She clasps my hands in earnest.

“You can’t hide away forever. You’re stronger than that. I can’t make you do anything, but I know you’ll do what you think is best. And despite being afraid of getting hurt, do you want to know the real reason you’re probably upset?”

“What’s the reason?” I mumble like a little girl. This felt like old times. My mom cooking my favorite breakfast whenever I’m upset and talking me through my problems.

“I think you confused Justin with your ghost.” I crinkle my eyebrows.

“What do you mean?”

“When you saw him kissing that girl, he became Bryce. He became the very embodiment of everything you’re afraid of. But he’s not Bryce and he’s a better man than Bryce will ever be. So you’ve gotta make things right.”

“Mom, when did you become so smart?” I ask, laughing as she stands up. I stand also, wrapping her tightly in a hug. God I’ve missed indulging my problems with her.

“Well I’m much older than you and have racked up some experience.” That made me frown.

“I know you don’t want to hear it but Dad is an asshole. You’ll find your own Justin mom. And I hope we can both learn to accept our new beginnings.”

“I love you smart girl. Now finish your breakfast and go outside. You’ve been a hermit long enough.”

I smile as she leaves my room, and hope this is a step to being somewhat like the way we used to.


Monday morning, when I turned my phone back on, I had 20 text messages and 15 missed calls. Lou’s texts basically expressed her distaste for Amy and contained many colorful to describe Amy and her anatomy. I smiled fondly because I know she just wants to make me feel better and her going after Amy was for my defense and her deep rooted hatred of the girl.

Jasmine and Amiyah just sent me some reassuring texts saying that they were fine and eventually pulled Lou away from Amy. They mostly were just checking to see if I was fine. Gracson even sent me a text asking if I got home safely bless his heart. My finger hovered over Justin’s name as I really didn’t want to read his messages. Before I could think twice I instantly opened his messages.

Please tell me you’re okay

Lilly? Please text me back

We need to talk.

I’m calling you. You better pick up.

I’m sorry.

I sigh, clicking off his name and texting everyone else back saying that I’m fine. Most of the calls were from Justin, the others being Jasmine or Amiyah. I set my phone down before getting ready for school, putting on my favorite denim jeans and a long sleeve maroon sweater that I adored and was perfect for the cold weather. In a mere few weeks we’d be on Christmas break and while I’m happy to be able to destress and relax for two weeks, I wasn’t too keen to spend part of the holiday awkwardly with my dad and Karen. I spent time with my mom on Christmas morning to unwrap presents and enjoy breakfast together. I had to be at my dad’s in the afternoon to celebrate with them. The past couple of years Christmas was quiet and lonely here with my mom because of Alex and dad’s shadow, and spending time with dad’s new family had been almost unbearable in the beginning.

But I had hope that this year could be different. I was different anyhow, and despite my mom keeping secrets from me, the support she showed me this morning and her kindness towards my friends is seemingly starting to bridge the gap between us. Our broken pieces definitely weren’t mended, but they were salvageable.

I text Lou asking if she could pick me up for school, because I wasn’t ready to face Justin, let alone sitting in his car by ourselves in such a small space. Where I couldn’t escape if things became too much.

Not to forget that one time where you two almost kissed in his car-

“Why won’t he leave my head?” I groan, wanting to facepalm at that particular thought. When Lou affirmed that she would swing by to get me, I double checked to make sure my message to Justin was sent where I told him I got a ride. I grab my school bag, shuffling downstairs to wait for Lou’s black and red mini cooper.

I smile at the bowl of cereal my mom sat on the table for me. Sitting down, I spoon a mouthful and humm at its sweet, sugary taste. I loved either extremely sweet or extremely greasy food for breakfast. Not much could top it.

Except Justin’s lips maybe.

That were connected to a certain blonde she devil.

I haven’t been more excited to hear the honk of Lou’s car.

“God bless you and your mini cooper,” I praise, settling in her front passenger seat.

“As much as I hate aiding you in your quest to avoid Justin, I understand. That wench always sinks her claws where they aren’t wanted,” Lou says, an ugly sneer crossing her beautiful features. I feel inclined to ask her what her deep hatred of Amy stemmed from, because even though we’ve just become friends in these past few months, I knew her and Amy had bad blood even before her relationship with Justin.

So I asked her and was shocked by her response.

“She’s a homie hopper,” Lou says, clenching her hands around the steering wheel. My mouth falls open in shock.

What?

“Please explain?” Lou sighs dejectedly as she stops at a red light, the longest one you had to sit through on the way to our school.

“Before dating Justin, she had her eyes set on Gracson. Even when he and I were talking. She’d constantly flirt with him, and send him texts even though she knew he and I were practically together. They had a fling during sophomore year before Gracson and I really knew each other. Neither one of them wanted an exclusive relationship. Until she changed her mind,” Lou’s jaw clenched as the light turned green and she shot forward.

“She has always had it out for me, being a petty, conniving ingrul. It only worsened when Gracson and I started talking. She’d purposefully flirt with him or find some way to touch him whenever I was in the vicinity. She’d text him countless suggestive things, and her and her minions tried their damndest to get under my skin. But I had the one things she couldn’t have: Gracson.” Lou’s smile was bittersweet and I felt for her right then. I reach over and give her hand a squeeze of reassurance.

“I confronted her in the ugliest way at a party that summer in front of everyone, and it escalated into us fighting. If you can even call it that. She got a few cheap shots in, and before I could wreck her Gracson yanked me back. Him and I got in a screaming match before he kissed me hard, bruising my lips in the best way,” She smiles wistfully, and my heart aches for her and the love she deserves.

“He asked me to be his that night. And I said yes. Thus this crap between Amy and I. I didn’t care for the petty drama but she thrives on that stuff,” Lou pulls into the student parking lot and snags an empty spot.

“So when her and Justin began dating, I didn’t trust her one bit. I knew she would only break his heart, but he was intent on being with her. And just like I predicted, she was possessive and controlling. I thanked whatever god was out there when he kicked her to the curb,” She turned to face me then, and I knew she was going to say something important and wanted me to pay attention.

“Amy’s pulled the same stunt with Gracson as she did with Justin at the diner Saturday. Except it was you in my place that time. She kissed Gracson in front of me before and I was furious to see her do it again, and hurting you in the process. So don’t blame Justin or let it fuel your fears about him or relationships in general. Amy is just a bitch,” Lou concluded. I smile softly at her, surprising her by reaching over and hugging her.

“Thank you Lou. For Saturday and in general where you’ve been an amazing, crazy, and accepting friend to me.”

“Anything for you Lilly. Now let’s start this dreaded day. And promise me something?” She asks seriously, and it’s odd to have seen this serious, deep side of her these past few days, but I’m glad I’ve gotten to. It’s nice to see the ugly parts of people, because sometimes are ugly illuminates our beautiful.

“Of course. What’s up?”

“Promise me you’ll put that poor boy out of his misery and talk to him soon. He cares more than you’d allow yourself to believe.” Despite everything, I knew she was right. Regardless if his feelings for Amy were as greater or less than what I feared, I knew it didn’t change the fact that he cared about me.

How much does he truly care? What are the extent of his feelings for me? For Amy?

“I promise,” I resign, following her into the massive building of our high school. With everything that’s been going on lately, I sometimes forget that this is our last year, and that we’ll never step foot in these halls as students ever again, and we’ll never be the same people we are now.

This school year has been the beginning and end of so many things for me. The beginning of what I hope to be life long friendships with amazing people I don’t think I’ll ever forget. The start of shedding the solitude I’ve used to shelter myself for the past two years. I’ve been happier in the months of knowing Justin and his friends than I have in the years since my dad moved out and Alex began to love drugs than he did me.The end of me thinking that I didn’t need new people in my life and I was better off without any connections to people. Because that’s not true.

It’s important to interact with people and let them touch and impact your life. It could be beautiful or tragic, but that fear will only hold you back. You can’t fly forward with people and opportunities with clipped wings as you hold the clippers, trembling with fear at change and new prospects. You’re only holding yourself back.

I’ve forged my own path this year, and it was up to me where that road led.


Forget all that crap I said about letting go of fear and pushing forward. I’m a coward. And I can’t keep a promise worth my life. I was sat in the library, feeling melancholy about the fact that I hadn’t sat here in months. My table sat unoccupied, waiting for me. The same ridges were etched into the wooden surface and I felt relieved at the familiarness of this spot.

But despite coming in here to avoid Justin and possibly get him off of my mind, everywhere I look I’m reminded of him. This is the place where he sought me out and changed everything. He kept me company even when I wanted to be alone, when I was rude and snarky towards him. He showed me compassion, acceptance, and gave me the benefit of the doubt. So why couldn’t I do the same for him?

Because it’s your heart on the line, and the stakes are damn high.

Coming here is having the total opposite effect than what I wanted. It truly was nice to be back in here, and sweet Ms. Harriet smiled broadly when I walked in, admitting she missed me and was happy I hadn’t been eating alone anymore.

God isn’t that embarrassing? Even the librarian noticed how lonely and miserable you were.

She welcomed me anyways, and it reminded me why I made this place my safe haven. I skipped out on going into the cafeteria to buy lunch, not wanting to run into anyone from the gang because I know they’d drag me to our table. I just pull out my notebook, writing like I usually would when sitting in here.

I’m walking aimlessly into a foreboding storm

I’ve been warned about this route, the risks and the fatal injuries sustained by many hearts

And although my mind warns me, reading every warning label

Fatigue

Anguish

Heartbreak

Sobbing

Gut wrenching hurt

My heart soars at the possibilities

Happiness

Smiles

Kisses

Passion

Love

So, trembling, my heart guides itself closer to you, my mind waiting for any potentially dangerous reasons to run in the other direction.

My mind, looking for any reason to leave, to protect its fragility being intertwined with my heart. Expecting deceit, expecting lies, expecting hurt, expecting there to be someone else.

My heart, seeing every beautiful perpetuating thing about you and accepting it. Embracing it. Thumping for your eyes, mouth, hands, and heart. Seeking you in the storm ahead. Expecting flaws, passion, love, hardship and accepting it.

So these two will pound and contradict inside of me, battling ceaselessly for a victor as I stare into your mesmerizing eyes.

It’s a battle between a mind and a heart, with a girl stuck in-between.

“So I see you were expecting me,” I’m extremely frightened by Justin’s casual tone, jumping in fright at his sudden appearance. He immediately looks like he feels bad, but he just purses his lips in a straight line. I straighten in my seat, closing my notebook casually. I’m slightly embarrassed, because I had a feeling he’d come searching for me here so I removed all of the chairs from my table. Under different circumstances I’d laugh because of all the times I did this to him before, but this was no time to be witty.

When I say nothing he sighs, grabbing a chair from a different table and sitting across from me. He grabs a sub sandwich from his tray and slides it over to me, along with a soda. Biting my lip, I stare at the food then at him.

“You have to eat,” He insists, daring me to refuse the food and give it back. My eyes challenge his before I give up and unwrap the sub, taking a bite and noticing irritably that it tastes amazing.

“You didn’t have to buy me lunch,” I tell him, being snarky but I’m secretly grateful and am just being difficult. Because seeing him now only reminds me of Saturday when Amy kissed him. My anger towards him may be irrational but I can’t help it. I hate feeling this way. Feeling clueless about how he really feels and the raging jealousy in me that he maybe, just maybe loved her.

“Well when I figured out you weren’t going to sit with us, I knew you probably didn’t step foot in the cafeteria at all in a ridiculous effort to avoid me.” My fingers clench at his words and the obvious frustration on his face as he clenched his jaw sexily, his brooding eyes captivating.

Damn him for looking so delicious even when he’s pissed and damn me for noticing every little thing about him.

“You didn’t have to get food for me or come in here if you clearly know your not wanted,” I snap, too annoyed and hurt to act civilized.

“You ignore my calls and texts. I start thinking I could talk to you before school but you blow me off by riding with Lou. You’ve been avoiding me all day and come back to this goddamn library just so you don’t have to be near me!” His voice gradually raises and he’s not quite yelling but his chest is rising up and down quickly because clearly his temper is dwindling.

Well my temper is quickly snapping.

“I came in here because I wanted to be alone! Something you never understood even from the start!”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean,” He growls, his voice deep, raspy, and infuriated. His eyes are narrowed at me, daring and burning with challenge.

Challenge accepted.

“You know what I mean,” I raise my chin stubbornly, “you basically stalked me the beginning of the year because you know no sense of personal space or privacy,” I hiss, feeling so frustrated and angry at him. My back stiffens as he leans over the table to bring himself closer to me, our eyes locked as he replied.

“You wanted me around then like you do right now. You’re just too damn stubborn to admit it like you are with everything else.” I break away from his gaze, because he was looking at me too intimately, like he could see right through me.

“Look at me,” He demands. I shake my head in refusal.

“Lilly look at me dammit,” he growls and my head snaps over to him, the thread holding together my fury and sanity finally snapping.

“What the hell do you want from me? Leave me the hell alone and go bother someone who actually wants your attention! Someone like Amy,” I spit, my hands are shaking with intense animosity. He stands quickly, marching over to me but I stand also, quickly grabbing my stuff because I’m done talking to him.

“We’re not done here,” He says, goign to grab me but I sidetrack him.

“Yes we are.”

“We need to talk.”

“We’ve done plenty of that and now I’m done talking to you. Go talk to Amy,” I snap, stomping away from him before he grabs my arm. His grip isn’t even that tight or demanding but for reason his simple touch roots me to the spot. I hate his hold over me.

Please Lilly,” He begs, suddenly desperate as the anger and frustration fade away. I’m trembling, and I want to run, to escape him and this because under all the pretense and anger is a startling truth I’m not ready to face.

“Please sit back down. I’m sorry.” Against every rational thought in my brain I drop my bag to the floor and cautiously sit back down, slumping in my seat. He resumes sitting across from me. I take another bite of the sandwich, feeling my anger ebb away.

“That thing with Amy Saturday, wasn’t what it looked like at all. I didn’t even know she’d be there until she strode over to our table and started talking to me. She was talking about her great grandmother Abby, who is an extremely sweet yet mischievous old woman. She constantly is pulling pranks in her retirement home and is one of the funniest women I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet,” He’s smiling genuinely, memories and past moments flickering through his eyes.

“Amy was telling me about her recent shenanigans and how she’s been asking about me. I told her how I missed Abby, and I was remembering the time we spent with her, and then Amy turned it all around by saying she missed me and next thing I know she’s kissing me,” he sighs, frustration and confusion marring his beautiful face. I gulp down the acid in my throat.

“She still loves you, you know.”

Do you still love her?

He shakes his head animatedly. “I ended things with her for a reason. She became extremely clingy and exceedingly jealous and I just couldn’t handle it anymore. She became someone I didn’t recognize and I didn’t want to be the reason she morphed into a totally different person,” He looked sincere but I couldn’t tell exactly how he really felt.

“Do you still love her?” I ask quietly, fearing and anticipating the answer that would inevitably change everything. He was staring at me, making the walls I built translucent as he stared directly into my soul. Here, right now, it was all or nothing.

“For a while, I thought I still cared too much. Even though I broke up with her I was messed up from the split. Despite how she’s been acting and how she’s acted in the past, she has goodness in her. That’s why I fell for her. But,” He takes a deep breath, and here in this moment there was nothing between us. My heart was picking up its pace, and I was lost in him and his words as he finally uncovered a truth.

“I don’t love her anymore. I thought that she was it, and I regretted breaking up with her when she started showing off the fact that she was seeing other guys. But while I thought what we had was strong, it paled in comparison to how I feel about you,” My breathing hitches, and I stop breathing. It feels as if my heart has stopped. The world must of stopped too. Because how could anyone or anything function when Justin Grey has completely tilted my world on its axis?

“Justin-” His name flutters from my lips in a gasp, all of my senses hitting me with full force. My stomach is aching in the best way with butterflies, my eyes wide with trepidation, my breathing coming in fast succession.

“I mean it Lilly. God I felt like shit when you ran from that diner. I’m not letting her ruin something good. Ruin us.” He sounds so determined, so damn sure that I don’t know what to think or believe. I’m sitting here fumbling like a fool why the guy I likes confesses he feels the same way.

“But we’re friends,” I say stupidly, and I want to slap myself.

You are the biggest friggin idiot on the planet. The guy you want wants you back and you’re basically friendzoning him.

Maybe I do need to see that therapist my mom mentioned a year ago.

“For now, yes. There’s no rush though. I want to take things slow, do things right with you. Because you mean too damn much to me and I don’t think I can’t be with you eventually.” He confesses, so sincere and honest about his feelings. I’m a pile of mush right now, completely helpless and stupefied by his charms.

“How do you know I want to be with you though?” I ask, trying to regain the upper hand but I know he can see right through me.

“Don’t you though?” He asks cheekily, smirking and looking so fucking sexy.

He’s going to be the death of me.

I feel a slow burn in my body, almost convinced I was dreaming. How did we go from arguing to this?

“You are incorrigible Justin Grey,” I mutter, finally giving in and smiling at him so big that it almost hurt.

“You like me anyways though,” He winks and I blush furiously.

“Shut up!” I moan, and the bell rings, startling me. I stand up, grabbing my bag but Justin takes it from me.

“Let me carry that,” He says and I smile fondly as I hand it over to him. We stand there for a moment, and I stare at him in wonder and longing. He leans into me, and my heart beats furiously as if it’s running a marathon, my breath hitching in the best way as his lips are a whisper away from mine.

Please kiss me. Make me yours.

I’m disappointed though when he shifts his head to kiss my cheek. I deflate, letting out a little sigh. He surprises me though when his lips trail lower, gliding and leaving little kisses along the column of my neck. I gasp, my hands clutching his shoulders as his soft, wet lips set me on fire, igniting a slow burn in my body. He kisses his way back up to my ear, whispering softly and seductively in my ear as he nibbles it.

“I won’t kiss you yet. I meant it when I said I want to take things slow. But when I do kiss your lips it’ll take your breath away.” As if I can even breath right now. And if that doesn’t constitute as kissing then my body has no reason to feel as weightless and fluttery as it does right now.

“Tease,” I groan and he laughs at me, and I’m surprised when he grabs my hand and starts walking me to class.

I’m not really sure what we are in this moment, but I know for a fact there’s no stopping the free fall of falling in love with Justin Grey.

And on this battlefield, the heart has won.


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